For a quick shortcut, look up your local emergency management agency and see what they classify as the biggest risks to your area. This is usually included in the All Hazards Risk Assesment section of the emergency plan.
Well, it’s really hard to know who’s just passing by and who’s on a scouting mission. You’d be way more likely to raise my hackles if you’re back in the rarely traveled woods than out on the road.
It also kind of matters what density of rural you’re talking about — if it’s a town with an established “main street” or whatever, people probably won’t think twice about you avoiding the heavily traveled road. If you’re talking TRULY rural with no town site, you’d be better off walking down that farm road than through the woods, IMO.